Cera (Cry Wolf, Cry, 2009) offers a “memoir novel,” of the 1960s, which he presents as a decade of radical social change that still affects us in the modern age.
In 1961, 20-year-old Ron Caruso, not long out of college, gets a teaching job at a Long Island junior high, then another position later, teaching special education classes at a local high school. The overall premise of the book is that the loosening of sexual mores in the ’60s was just as significant as the rise of rebellion and protest. Thus Ron has adventures in the dark with his widowed landlady and supervisor at work, Martha Bouschard; has a quick fling with the aptly named student teacher Lorraine Tempest; and enjoys sexual gymnastics with night school students Geri Tourcott and Valerie Kasbarian, and so on. Finally, Ron meets Christina Pace, an 18-year-old high school student. Readers learn a bit about her past and circumstances early on (which Ron has yet to discover), and as the two get closer, the author gets across the sense that Ron is falling in love with her, and not just having another fling. Sure enough, much turmoil ensues as Ron tries to reconcile his conscience and protect his job as Christina heads into her senior year at Nessaponic High School. The book’s overall tone is hard to pin down. The title is ominous and the subtitle—“Is man redeemable?”—even more so. But although it’s thematically important that Ron succumbs to his lusts, a spirit of wish fulfillment—not to mention gratuitous erotica—still hovers over it all. A “memoir novel” is also a problematic concept, as readers can’t be sure how much of the book is drawn from real life. The story of Ron and Christina, however, does finally provide a strong narrative arc, for which readers will be grateful.
A rambling novel that never quite decides what it wants to be.